A former official of Nationar said he is baffled by the company's apparent liquidity collapse, which prompted the New York State Banking Department to seize the Manhattan check-clearing and trust company on Monday.
"I'm a little surprised at the lack of funds," the former official said. "I just don't know what happened to that company."
The former official, who asked not to be identified, said he had heard rumors two months ago that "things were in very bad shape" at Nationar, but "I'm surprised that the Banking Department had to take them over."
The Banking Department seized the company, which is owned by 67 thrifts, because it lacked the money to cover check-processing transactions. The company also provides services to 203 credit unions.
Nationar's check-clearing, trust, and other operations will be run by the state until a buyer is found, according to a statement issued by the department. John J. Lyons, founder and former chief executive of bank consulting firm Lyons, Zomback & Ostrowski, will be administrator of the company.
Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas has been hired to run the check-processing operation, but Acting Superintendent of Banks Neil D. Levin warned in the statement that "institutions using the service would be required to deposit sufficient cash on a daily basis to cover all transactions."
Department officials wouldn't elaborate on the company's problems, except to say that they involved basic operations.
A source in the banking industry, who asked to remain anonymous, said Nationar had been profitable for decades when it was run by its thrift shareholders. But, the source said, for the last few years it has been managed by a board dominated by people from outside the banking industry, including its chairman and chief executive, Robert P. Rittereiser, a former senior official at several securities firms.
"The problems and the difficulties that are existing today occurred not when the savings banks had any role in setting direction for this company," the source said. It is "actually run by a guy out of the securities world."
Clare E. Sykes, a Banking Department spokeswoman, said the state does not expect any inconvenience to the public or to the thrift owners, some of whom wrote down their capital investments long ago, she said.